Lupus erythematosus is a name given to a collection of autoimmune diseases in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues. Symptoms of these diseases can affect many different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs.
The underlying cause of autoimmune diseases is not fully known.
Symptoms vary from person to person, and may come and go. Almost everyone with SLE has joint pain and swelling. Some develop arthritis. The joints of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees are often affected.
Other common symptoms include:
Chest pain when taking a deep breath
Fever with no other cause
General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
Sensitivity to sunlight
Skin rash. A "butterfly" rash in about half people with SLE. The rash is most often seen over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, but can be widespread. It gets worse in sunlight.
Swollen lymph nodes
Other symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected:
Brain and nervous system: headaches, numbness, tingling, seizures, vision problems, personality changes
Digestive tract: abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
Heart: abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
Lung: coughing up blood and difficulty breathing
Skin: patchy skin color, fingers that change color when cold (Raynaud phenomenon)
Kidney: swelling in the legs, weight gain
Some people have only skin symptoms. This is called discoid lupus.